If you have a child who is struggling at school then you will be extremely interested in information that offers help for children with learning disabilities, whatever form it may take. You are probably concerned enough to spend big dollars and loads of time trying to find a solution to their academic problems, and you may notice that there is a huge variety of material available, especially on the Internet.
Reading disabilities are a hot topic these days, with many students struggling to keep up with their peers, or failing to do enough work at home. This provides a challenge for the teachers who care for them, especially remedial teachers, but it can be a source of great pain and incredible frustration for both parents and kids.
Having worked in the field of dyslexia and educational disabilities for over 20 years, I care about how vision affects education. I’m not talking about whether a child can see clearly not, because most kids can see perfectly well, but the question is can they see comfortably and can they take in, interpret and understand the information their eyes are giving them as they look at computers or books.
A behavioural optometrist goes far beyond a regular eye test. Almost all optometrists test children’s eyes, a behavioural optometrist cares enough to take extra time to closely examine the focusing and eye teaming abilities, eye movements across a page, and a variety of perceptual skills like visualisation, directionality, sequencing and coding.
Because vision is the dominant sense in the classroom (and at home for Home work!), the vast majority of children with learning disabilities actually have a strong visual component to the difficulties, with over 80% of all information in the classroom coming in via the eyes and visual system. This is especially true for ADHD, autistic or asperges kids or children struggling with vestibular, audio or any other learning disorder or disability.
And it is not just about the ability to see, because chimpanzees can see a book but they cannot learn like we can, no matter what interventions or additional experience we give them. Kids might see the print, but focusing on it for any length of time can cause fatigue, frustration or eyestrain, and so they choose to lose concentration very quickly on their work books.
If they constantly lose concentration, the concerns are that they never do enough to develop the visual abilities that they need to learn effectively. Skills like eye movements, focus and eye teaming, visualisation and the like are essential for learning, but it takes practice to gain the skill.
Checking Vision can be Helpful for children with Learning Disabilities
The role of the behavioural optometrist is to ensure that a child’s eyes and visual system are set up appropriately to allow them to learn at maximum efficiency and progress in their studies. Our task is to get them concentrating and to help them develop the visual abilities that are required for learning, and that will last a lifetime.
So if you are serious about investigating why they are struggling at school, and if you feel you are ready for a cost-effective and successful mode of treatment, then my recommendation is that you carefully examine the child’s vision.
That is my role as a behavioural optometrist. I do not teach children to read, I do not drill spelling words with them, but I am able to give them the skills they need to do these appropriately. Using glasses and specific vision therapy my aim is to have a huge impact on every child who was struggling at school, and to join with educational professionals to ensure that children with learning disabilities get every chance possible to overcome and succeed.